21 January 2016

UPDATED: Even Catholic headlines are misleading about the washing of feet

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments released today a decree signed on 6 January 2016 by His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the same Congregation, revising the text of the rubrics of the Roman Missal regarding whose feet may be washed during the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday. Why it took two weeks to make the decree public is anyone's good guess.

The text of the earlier rubric clearly stated that the feet of viri selecti, which can only be translated as "select men," could be washed. It should be noted that the washing of feet was - and remains - optional; it is not required. Many - at least in the United States of America - took offense to this rubric and violated it each year by washing the feet of women, boys, and (rarely) girls.

The revised text of the rubric now states that the feet of qui selecti sunt, which can be translated as "those chosen," may be washed. Those chosen are to come from the populo Dei, from "the people of God," that is, from among those who have received the grace of Baptism. As the Code of Canon Law states: "Christ's faithful are those who, since they are incorporated into Christ through baptism, are constituted the people of God" (canon 204 § 1).

The decree goes on to say that those chosen may be selected from the following groups within the people of God: "men and women, and conveniently from young and old, healthy and ill, clerics, consecrated [men and women], laity." But you might never know this from the headlines in the Catholic media.

The headline from Crux declares, "Francis changes the rules: Women can have their feet washed on Holy Thursday." What about boys and girls?

The Catholic Herald says, "Pope Francis opens Holy Thursday foot-washing rite to women." What about boys and girls?

The National Catholic Reporter's headline reads, "Pope's decree opens Holy Thursday foot washings to women and girls." What about boys? What is more, it is not a decree from Pope Francis, but from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

America Magazine declares by way of its headline, "Pope Francis opens foot-washing rite to women in gesture of inclusion." What about the inclusion of boys and girls?
[UPDATE: The headline of the Catholic News Agency says, "Women may now have their feet washed at Holy Thursday Mass, Pope says, and that of Zenit says, "Pope decrees that Holy Thursday foot washing ceremony can include women." What about boys and girls? Zenit's lede goes a bid further, saying, "Those chosen should represent the entire people of God: Young and old, healthy and sick," but that simply isn't true. The decree says that those chosen can come from these goups, but it does not say they must or should come from them.]
However, there is one headline that gets it right, that of the National Catholic Register: "Pope changes rules for washing of feet on Holy Thursday."
[UPDATE: The headline of the Catholic News Service also gets it when it says, "Foot-washing ritual not limited to men, Vatican says in new decree." It should not be a surprise that the headline from News.va correctly says "the Pope decrees that not only men may be chosen for the washing of the feet in the Liturgy of Holy Thursday, as does Vatican Radio when it says, "Pope changes Holy Thursday decree to include all people of God."]
The change the Holy Father directed be made to the rubric affects more than just women; it also affects boys and girls. Headline writers would do well to recognize this and reflect it, so as not to mislead the faithful.

Remember: You cannot put too much trust in the media, not even in the Catholic media.

14 comments:

  1. Nevertheless, it destroys the historical symbolism of the 12 Apostles--who were all men, and who should be played by men--as being the ones whose feet Jesus was washing.

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  2. What about modesty? What about the whole priest scandal? What on earth made them think it was not a violation of propriety for a priest to handle a woman that way? And considering the reputation of the Church, to handle boys and girls?

    Yeah... way to encourage the unfair image of priests as pederasts

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  3. Are you serious? This is a serious article? Good grief it is obvious the meaning behind the headlines. Nobody was stumping for boys and girls. The feminists and their emasculated and gutless groupie priests have been attempting to advance the feminist agenda and...they got it. The headlines addressed the issue quite accurately. You might say the Register's headline is a bit misleading, as it in no way identifies the crux of the issue. But then, headlines never do.

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  4. As a woman, I baulk at the idea of having my feet washed... it somehow fits more into the domain of men....

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  5. As a woman, I baulk at the idea of having my feet washed in public...

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  6. While I am quite the traditionalist when it comes to liturgy (I attend a traditional Latin Solemn High Mass every Sunday here in Norwalk, Connecticut), it was Pope Pius XII who created this mess in the first place. The “Mandatum”/washing of feet always was done OUTSIDE of Mass, usually at Vespers, in the Roman Rite, until the numerous changes introduced to Holy Week by Pius XII. It NEVER had a “sacerdotal” meaning; those who had their feet washed did NOT “represent the Apostles”. In monasteries of women religious, the abbess or prioress washed the feet of all the FEMALE members of the religious community. The Roman Pontifical called for 13—not 12—to have their feet washed. In 1955, under the guidance of none other than Annibale Bugnini (who also was author of the disastrous 1969 Novus Ordo/”Ordinary Form” Mass), the Mandatum was moved to Mass for “pastoral reasons” (yes, I also hear alarm bells going off…), since most Catholics do not attend Vespers. The unfortunate, unintended result of this 1955 “pastoral change” was that it soon changed the MEANING of the rite. What REALLY needs to happen is to restore our authentic tradition and put it back at Vespers where it belongs. At Mass it creates an awkward, lengthy pause that turns into a bizarre spectacle: utterly inappropriate at the Evening Mass. (As an aside, it’s interesting to note that in the Milanese Church foot washing was the original form of Baptism, until Rome insisted they conform to the practice of the rest of the Christendom. And in Milan they baptised both men AND women...)

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  7. so what about a transgender who is baptized or a gay man or woman who may be chosen? wouldn't this modification be applicable to them as well?

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  8. Thank you Pope Francis , Vicar of Christ, for your clear and unambiguous decree. We are so blessed to have you as our Pope.

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    Replies
    1. The decree is Cardinal Sarah's, issued by order of Pope Francis. As such, it is technically not "Pope Francis' decree".

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  9. Thank you Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ !

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  10. The US council of Catholic Bishops long ago (c. 1987?) said that the Washing of the Feet was a sign of Christ's command to us to love and serve one another. I don't know how that command turned into the interpretation that His act was one of the signs He used to establish the priesthood.

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  11. Interesting. Why do all these articles give credit for the change to Pope Francis when it was really the handiwork of Cardinal Sarah and the Congregation for Divine Worship?

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    Replies
    1. Because Pope Francis ordered the changes to be made in December of 2014.

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